Borrow Great Books from the Library Without Leaving Home

In Singapore, your local library is one of the best perks of citizenship and there is probably one near you. But there is another part of the library that you may not be aware of – the digital or virtual library. In keeping up with technology and to make reading even more accessible, the National Library Board (NLB) has been at the forefront of digital media and its convenience to the public. All you need to use this is to get a basic Android or IOS tablet that is large enough so that it comfortable for reading – and you are ready to go.

Setting up may need a little help and you can always take your tablet to your local library and someone there will be able to help you get started. There is literally hundreds of thousands of titles in ebooks. Watch this video.

How do I get started? To start, you must download and install an app called “NLB Mobile“. You will need to register or log in with your existing NLB username/password – if you have never registered with the NLB, you will need your NRIC and Singpass access. To read books off line, you will need to download another app called “Overdrive” – and again, just log in with your NLB username/password. For those who likes to browse magazines, you will need “PressReader“. Once you have all three apps installed, you are all set to use NLB’s virtual library.

What can I do? You can do pretty much what you do as though you are in the library.

  • You can virtually borrow up to 16 ebooks. What I mean is that you can “borrow the ebook” and even download it on your tablet. Like real books, the library only buys limited copies and can only lend out digitally what it owns (like real books). So when the ebook that you want has already been checked out, you can place a “reservation” and you will be notified when the ebook has been returned by another reader. You can keep the ebooks for a maximum of 3-weeks. Note that this quota for the number of ebooks you can borrow is in addition to the quota for real books. On your app, you can click on “Account” to check what you have borrowed – both real and ebooks – and when they are all due back. You have the option to “read online” wherever you have internet access, or download the entire book onto your device to read anywhere/ anytime. Searching for an ebook is also easy – you can browse by category or search by title and/or author.
  • You can also read thousands of magazines and newspaper online. However, there is a catch – while you can access this anywhere/anytime using PressReader app, each login session is valid for one hour only. However, you can re-login after that to refresh your one hour. If you are in the library onsite and logging in via Wireless@SG, your session limit is 3-days. Remember, once you go home, it reverts to the one-hour limit! I will be surprised if you cannot find a magazine of interest to browse! You can also asked to be notified if a new edition of a magazine is available. To me, this is the ultimate in browsing – it is like reading anything you want off the magazine rack and not having to pay for it or have uncomfortable stares from the cashier!

For many seniors who love to read, this is a great option – and best of all, it is FREE for Singapore citizens. The only challenge is to make the jump from paper book to reading off a digital table. As our eyes are not as sharp when we grow older, I recommend investing in a larger tablet with a bigger screen. The trade-off is that larger tablets tend to be a little heavier but the good news is that the newer tablets are getting thinner and lighter anyway. If you still want to learn more after reading this, buy a tablet and bring it to your nearest NLB library to get started! Enjoy.

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